Do I have coronavirus? Green Bay health experts talk symptoms, precautions, testing


"Just keep calm. You have more chances of this not being COVID-19, unless you know you have been exposed or have a recent travel history."

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – As of Thursday, March 12, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has confirmed there are seven active cases of coronavirus in the state. Since the outbreak of the virus in December 2019, Wisconsin has now seen eight total cases of coronavirus.

As concerns about coronavirus continue to make headlines, WFRV Local 5 spoke with Emergency Room Doctor Paul Casey and Emergency Management Specialist Dave Kobielak, both from Bellin Health, as well as Pulmonologist Dr. Raul Mendoza of Aurora BayCare Medical Center for more information on the virus and how it impacts those in Northeast Wisconsin.

First, what are the symptoms of coronavirus?

“Coronavirus presents with symptoms very similar to the common cold or the flu – fever, cough, shortness of breath – those are the main symptoms of coronavirus,” says Dr. Casey.

According to Dr. Mendoza, these symptoms are no different from other respiratory viruses such as the common cold or influenza. They include:

  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Joint aches
  • Cough
  • Sometimes, shortness of breath
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Who’s considered at risk?

“The elderly population, especially if they have a respiratory illness like COPD, asthma, emphysema, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes – all of those are risk factors that add on and make patients at high risk for complications related to the virus,” Dr. Mendoza told Local 5.

“Unlike influenza which affects both extremes of age, the novel coronavirus causes the illness called COVID-19,” says Dr. Casey. “That tends to affect older people with other medical problems like diabetes, heart disease, dialysis, especially people who are immune-compromised. Children, luckily, seem to be spared.”

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What precautions should I be taking?

According to Dr. Casey, the same precautions used to prevent influenza and the common cold should be used to prevent coronavirus. A major precaution to take is washing your hands frequently or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

“Coronavirus, like other upper respiratory infections, is transmitted by what we call ‘droplet transmission.’ What that means is that when someone sneezes or coughs, the small particles of fluid that contain the virus can be transmitted with six feet of the person who coughed and you could inhale the virus.”

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Dr. Casey went on to say those droplets could land on hard surfaces, such as doorknobs, and transfer to your hands upon coming in contact with those surfaces.

“I think because they’re both respiratory viruses, protecting yourself really is the same, regardless of whether its the flu or coronavirus,” says Klobielak.

What should I do if I think I have coronavirus?

“I think it’s not if it hits here, it’s when. It’s spreading rapidly across the United States and we know it’s probably going to hit here at some point. When it does, we don’t want people infected going to the emergency room and infecting the entire waiting room with the virus,” says Dr. Casey.

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Dr. Mendoza explains that the best thing you can do if you think you have coronavirus is to remain calm.

“Just keep calm. You have more chances of this not being COVID-19, unless you know you have been exposed or have a recent travel history.”

“What we would really like to get across to people is to call your primary care provider, call the urgent care you would probably drive to be seen at – call ahead to these places and describe to them what you’re experiencing, if you have some of the recent travel history,” says Kobielak. “We’re set up such that we can screen these individuals over the phone and then best decide what the next source of action should be.

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Kobielak explains that, by screening individuals over the phone, health officials hope they can prevent the spread of the disease to those in the waiting room.

“Patients that are much more ill and require what the hospital has to provide, they will be admitted into the hospital for medical care,” says Kobielak. Those that are able to remain at home and are experiencing flu-like symptoms are likely able to stay home.

“We’re hoping to do as many phone screenings or e-visits as we can,” says Dr. Casey.

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Are healthcare providers prepared for the spread of coronavirus?

Kobielak says Bellin Health has been planning for the spread of coronavirus for some time. Hear more about that here:

“Everyone really should focus on preparation for any kind of disaster,” Klobielak adds, “Flooding is also a big talk for our area and preparation of having your daily needed supplies, and having a couple of weeks worth, and benefits you not only with coronavirus, but with a disaster like flooding.”

“Every healthcare facility is testing patients. There’s a process that you must go through to test for the virus, but yes, we’re testing,” Dr. Mendoza added.

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